When the United States invaded Iraq in order to destroy a nonexistent nuclear threat there were national and world protests. Opposition to that war was loudly voiced by American politicians and world leaders, as well as in mass demonstrations across the globe. Despite the protests, the war proceeded as planned. Today it seems that it is generally agreed that the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation were catastrophic mistakes.
Now the same people that gave us Iraq, and remain just about the only supporters of their own failed policy there, are signaling that it is necessary to destroy the Iranian nuclear threat. And again, one problem is that this threat may not exist.
This time, however, the opponents of the threatened attack are surprisingly few, even as the signs of a coming air assault on Iran continue to increase. This lack of articulated opposition to military action against Iran, especially by members of the Democratic Party and their supporters, increase the chances that the Bush/Cheney administration will widen the war in the Middle East either directly or by using Israel as a proxy.
“Israelis are mounting a full court press to get the Bush administration to strike Iran’s nuclear complex,” according to David Martin of CBS News. Martin quotes Michael Oren, a CBS analyst, who is an American-born Israeli and well-connected to his government’s reliable sources, as stating, “[t]he Israelis have been assured by the Bush administration that the Bush administration will not allow Iran to nuclearize [sic].”
While Israel pressures the Americans via diplomatic and military channels, the U.S. Congress will shortly give its overwhelming support to two identical non-binding resolutions that will demand that President Bush impose a military blockade on Iran. H.Con Res. 362, the House version, and S.Res. 580, the Senate version, demand:
[T]hat the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program . . .
These resolutions are a direct result of the efforts of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who shortly after their annual convention in early June, deployed 5000 activists to 500 separate meetings on Capitol Hill, using their vast influence to promote this anti-Iranian legislation among U.S. lawmakers.
Both resolutions will have the wide bipartisan support in both branches of Congress that AIPAC-sponsored bills invariably receive. Even if the idea of the blockade goes nowhere, the resolutions signal that the vast majority in Congress will either support or will not object to military action against Iran.
Rumors and threats of either an imminent U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran have been increasing during the past month. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Army Radio quoted an unnamed senior member of President Bush’s entourage as saying, during the President’s visit to Israel, that Bush and Cheney were “of the opinion that military action against Iran was called for.” The White House immediately denied the report. President Bush had just given a particularly bellicose speech to the Israeli Knesset where he bluntly pledged that the U.S. would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Reminiscent of his “Axis of Evil” speech, the President listed Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda as enemies and spoke about a “battle of good and evil.”
The Asia Times claimed that Bush plans an air attack in Iran before August. The source is an unnamed former assistant U.S. Secretary of State who is active in the foreign affairs community. The article goes on to say that Senators Diane Feinstein and Richard Lugar have been briefed about the planned attack. Both Senators denied receiving any briefing, but since the information is classified it would be impossible for them to verify the existence of such a plan without violating the law. According to the Asia Times, the target of attack would not be the Iranian nuclear installations but rather the Quds force, which are the elite forces of the Iranian army. Time magazine in an article titled, “A Clamor for War,” treats the possibility of an attack against Iran as worrisome and real. The piece says that many in the Congress think that the administration will “bomb Iran between November and January.”
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had a 90-minute meeting with President Bush in Washington at the beginning of June. It had been widely reported that Olmert would make the case for an American air attack against Iran. After their talk Olmert proclaimed, “we reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat. I left with a lot less [sic] question marks [than] I had entered with regarding the means, the timetable restrictions and American resoluteness to deal with the problem. George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it and intends to act on the matter before the end of his term in the White House.”
When Michael Gordon reported in the New York Times on June 20, that Israel had a dress rehearsal for an attack on Iran that involved 100 fighter planes using NATO airspace off the coast of Greece, neither the U.S. nor Israel denied the report. Prior to that report Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Transportation Minister, who is in the inner defense cabinet, told the Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, that Israel would attack Iran since the sanctions are not working.
One thing is certain: there is a clear possibility of a strike against Iran in the near future. The CBS story claims that Israel is now telling the United States, either you do it or we will. Unfortunately, whoever does it is courting a major disaster. An attack on Iran could provoke a retaliation that could quickly widen into a third American war in the region. Vulnerable targets include Israel, shipping in the Gulf, and American troops in Iraq. The reasons for attacking Iran are clearly less about that country’s nuclear threat and more about the neo-con project for American hegemony in the region, as well as what the current Israeli government perceives as its security interests. It is all too reminiscent of the false reasons given for invading Iraq. Unfortunately, just as before the Iraq war, many American political opposition voices are reluctant to criticize an aggressive Iran initiative for fear of being labeled weak or unpatriotic.
It is disappointing that the Democrats who came to power in 2006 by purporting to be antiwar, are proving yet again that just as they have been incapable of stopping the Bush/Cheney debacle in Iraq, they are equally ineffectual in opposing the looming next war, the one with Iran.